Christmas at Bristol and Hucclecote

Andrew Biggs

I was at a meeting yesterday which was also attended by Revd Mandy Briggs who is the Education Officer at the New Room in Bristol. If you haven’t visited the New Room recently then now might be a good time to go. It is right in the heart of Bristol’s ‘Shopping Quarter” so you could get your Christmas shopping done at the same time!

If you are unaware, the New Room is the oldest Methodist Chapel in world, built by John Wesley in 1739 as a meeting place for the Methodist Societies. It became the most important centre for Methodism outside of London. But it was always intended as much more than just a place of worship - it was also a place which provided food and clothing for the poor, a school for children and helped the sick through a medical dispensary. So Methodism was supporting welfare, education and health long before free schools or the NHS were thought of.

This year the New Room became both the oldest and the newest Methodist building at the same time! A new building has been built in what was formerly an open courtyard on the Horsefair side, which provides a new entrance, a cafe, a museum telling the story of Methodism, a library and a meeting room. It also allows improved access to the upper rooms of the New Room the ‘preachers rooms’ through the provision of a lift. You can see more on the web site:

http://www.newroombristol.org.uk

which also gives details of the many activities, concerts and services that take place there.

Why visit it now particularly? Well, the Bristol and South Gloucestershire Circuit are providing the chaplaincy to the German Christmas Market which has already opened in the shopping quarter. They have been offered a shop unit in the victorian Arcade which runs at the side of the New Room and they intend to set this up with various activities for adults and children over the Christmas period. So visiting now would enable you to do the Christmas shopping, visit the German Market, find out about Methodism and the New Room, have lunch in the cafe and take part in some Christmas activities - what more could you want?!

This conversation was a reminder that the season of Advent is fast approaching - Advent Sunday is 3rd December. This is the time, when we need to be careful that Christmas does not take over too soon, because Advent is a beautiful season of the Christian year in its own right. It is a season of watching and waiting, a season of preparation. That preparation obviously includes the practicalities of preparing for the celebration of Christmas itself, but this becomes meaningless if we do not also prepare ourselves spiritually for the coming season.

Traditionally Advent was a time of reflection on our life over the last year, of repentance for those things we got wrong and which came between us and our Lord and Saviour, and penitence to restore that relationship. These themes are still reflected in our Advent season services, including our service of Holy Communion which invites us to remind ourselves of the commandments of Jesus, before confessing our sins and receiving that reminder that Christ has already atoned for them through his love and grace: “I am making all things new’ says the Lord.

At Christmas we both celebrate the birth of Christ and look forward to the fulfilment of his kingdom when he comes again and preparing ourselves for this must also be part of our preparations during this season.

O Holy Child, Emmanuel,

hope of the ages, God with us,

visit again this broken place,

till all the earth declares your praise

and your great mercies own.

Now let your love be born in us,

O come, Lord Jesus, come

(Words from Maggie Dawn, Singing the Faith 173)

A Peaceful Advent and a Very Happy Christmas to you all.

Andrew

And I am with you always, to the end of the age. Matthew 28:20